How to Use a Compass

Read our tips to direct and guide you, thanks to a very useful tool: the compass.

How to Use a Compass
Going From Point A to Point B

The hiker's must-have tool, a compass, should always be in your bag. Prefer a baseplate compass to use it with a map. It has a turning base that will enable you to record directions. Tie your compass' cord (if you have one) to your bag to avoid losing it.

Find a Clear View Point

If possible, find a clear space that will allow you to easily locate notable landmarks like summits, buildings or bodies of water. If they are too far from point A, try to find unusual features around you that are visible on the map.

Place the Compass on the Map

Start by laying out your map flat, not necessarily completely. You will then place your compass on the map. If it isn't flat, the needle may get stuck in the compass and no longer show the north. Place your compass on a line (feel free to draw your own) joining point A to point B. Direct your orienting arrow, which is on the tip of your compass. towards your destination.

Adjust the Compass

Now that your compass has been placed flat, turn the rotating dial to match up the compass's north with North on the map. As a reminder, North is always at the top of the map. You can now calculate your azimuth. This is the angle that forms north of the map with your direction. It will be between 0° to 360° degrees. Your azimuth is the number that appears where the dial and sight line cross.

Turning the Compass

Leave the compass on the map or hold it flat in your hand. Rotate it until the north on the dial corresponds with your needle. Congratulations, now all you need to do is follow your orienting arrow ensuring that you always match your red needle with the north of the dial.

If you aren't used to following a compass bearing yet, start with small half-day or shorter hikes, that you already know. Even if you make a few mistakes at first, you will easily find your way if you know the area.

Get started with your first compass now!

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